Love Asylum And Pharmacy

excerpt Our first poets (the Vacarescus, Milu, Conachi and others) were experts in erotic pathology, the maladies induced by love. But the true physician erotologist appears to have been Anton Pann. The Love Asylum attempted to cure precisely that kind of ailment. The enamored – Pann expostulates in the preface to the collection – are "as battle-struck soldiers injured by all sorts of arms, who expose their wounds and tell their tales, ask for the physician's help." Martial metaphors are at hand: Conachi also employs them: "Amour, a warrior alike / arms itself." Psycho-erotic manifestations may have irreversible effects: "Some even have their minds deformed for eternity, not knowing how to find their cure, and in the stead of a love sanatorium find themselves in Bedlam." It is not by accident that the first pamphlet of the anthology The Love Asylum (1850) opens with the poem The Woman Physicist and the Patient.At the end of the 18th century arise feeble signs of paradigmatic change. In the sentimental and manufactured lyric, filled with lamentations and fainting, on-and-off, elements of raw sexuality make their appearance. Sadistic Matei Milu, for example, recommends the whipping that a woman should suffer under erotic madness: "At the time of vicious whim / hath the man a whip with'm / give 'er ass a good hiding." More restrained, Alecu Vacarescu does not build up the stamina to picture sensual contacts: "Hands! Thou shalt not linger / thus see that thou finger / and softly embrace / that wondrous face." In his turn, Conachi is not merely a depressive poet, prone to suicide ("give me a bodkin that I may kill myself"), but also a „well-renowned lover" (according to his self-definition), "a shaven-head Petrarch with an Eastern faun's countenance" (as worded by Calinescu). Ibraileanu reckons the damsels are dubiously "too many" (i.e. in the vicinity of twenty), which would have the old philanderer taken with "amorous affliction". He describes his erotic impulses in a lustful form, trivial for the aesthetic-ethical benchmarks of the epoch. The poet sends the spirit ahead of him in preparation of the body of the beloved: "Spirit, pray thee do connive / that yon master soon arrive / breast and bosom quick unveil / that the nip' may thus prevail / feet and sundry make thou bare / for there is no time to spare / speak thou swift and mouth her bold / that of 'er I must get hold." Pann did not dare to include this text in The Love Asylum, nevertheless it became popular on account of various lute players. Nor did Filimon venture out to publish such "amorous conquistas" with "feeling caresses", as saliently-minutely described in some "love chant": "obscene expression comprised therein – he exculpated himself prudishly – prevent us from publishing it."Priapic Conachi was afflicted not only by psychic ailments triggered by love, but equally by ones of a physical nature. In empathy, the poet commiserates with "the amour-sickened youths" that suffer from venereal diseases: "Pale, worn out and meager-faced, bumps and swellings everywhere / lovers are, receiving these as a prize, on ladies' knees."'Some [lovers] – Anton Pann notes – are irretrievably mad, unable to ever find a cure. Others fall prey to melancholy and thus gently fade away and meet their end; others, in turn, resemble mourning women at gravesides, manage to relieve their pain through chants, as if by doctor's orders. To Pann, it is only the chants and the charms that can alleviate the sufferings of love. The sole certainty is that for this ailment there may not be a remedy. In The Love Asylum there is no pharmacy to this effect: "My cravings have no cure" or "A remedy to reconcile my pain / to seek for e'er be in vain!"The malady of love is not only incurable, it is also lethal. Death and love do not go hand in hand solely in the poet's body, but in the very substance of the poem.Moreover, "love as an incurable disease" is a universal theme. Irrespective of time and space, the world's poets have worded it in equivalent forms. The erotic paradigm has changed face many times, but the motif has outlived them to this day. Leonard Cohen, for example, has composed a song entitled Ain't No Cure for Love: "The doctors working day and night / But they'll never find that cure for love / There ain't no drink, no drug / There's nothing pure enough to be a cure for love." This essay is a fragment of pioneer research work within The Museum of Romanian Literature under the umbrella title of Mindsets, Fashions and Moral Ways. The Romanian Transitional Society (1774-1886). from Dilema veche 59/4-10 March 2005

by Andrei Oişteanu